Flanagan’s ironically titled debut, set in 1957, pits a Cape Cod cop against a murderous child molester, a murderous gambling ring, and the scarcely less murderous Massachusetts State Police.
Lt. Bill Warren, acting chief of the Barnstable Police Department, is horrified by the sex killings of two local boys, especially since his alcoholic wife Ava’s departure has left him the sole support of a vulnerable son, Little Mike, who has the mental faculties of a 3-year-old. Warren is infuriated when hotshot state trooper Capt. Dale Stasiak grabs the case from the local police, and he’s even more angry when the cooperation Cape Cod DA Elliott Yost promised between the two law enforcement agencies turns out to consist entirely of Stasiak grabbing Detective Phil Dunleavy from Warren’s department to run his errands. But then it gets worse, and not just because more little boys are found dead. Someone in the know tips off loan shark George McCarthy to clean evidence of his gambling operation out of a local bar, the Bent Elbow, minutes before Warren raids the place. And when Warren tries to question a selectman’s son about the robbery of an antiques shop owned by a gay couple, he runs into an eminently predictable brick wall. Meanwhile, troubled Father Terrence Boyle keeps taking boys from Nazareth Hall, a school for intellectually disabled children, on unauthorized trips into the deep woods. How long will it be before his eye turns to Little Mike?
Enough skullduggery for a TV series; you have to wonder what Flanagan is saving for the sequel. But the author creates a truly hopeless sense of menace, even if the most menacing figures are with the state police.